Blowing off the dust

Microsoft’s Raymond Chen tells the story of a customer who complains that the keyboard isn’t working. Of course, it’s unplugged. If you try asking them if it’s plugged in, “they will get all insulted and say indignantly, ‘Of course it is! Do I look like an idiot?’ without actually checking.”

“Instead,” Chen suggests, “say ‘Okay, sometimes the connection gets a little dusty and the connection gets weak. Could you unplug the connector, blow into it to get the dust out, then plug it back in?’

“They will then crawl under the desk, find that they forgot to plug it in (or plugged it into the wrong port), blow out the dust, plug it in, and reply, ‘Um, yeah, that fixed it, thanks.’”

Quoted from Seven Steps to remarkable customer service by Joel Spolsky, found via Seth Godin’s blog. Teaching basic maths to adults can involve a certain amount of ‘blowing off the dust’. I’m finding that emphasising the learning process (forming schema, working memory and so on) helps students talk about learning blocks on basic material. More on this when I have worked up the material with some examples.

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